The 2021 incoming freshman class is stacked.
With last year’s First-Year Player Draft lasting only five rounds due to COVID-19, numerous high school standouts who would have otherwise started their pro careers opted for college. In fact, this year’s freshman class is so talented and deep that when we selected players for College Baseball Nation's inaugural Freshman All-America Teams, we had to leave off multiple players who would have been locks in any other year.
OF Chad Born, poached by the Hurricanes from the California sandlots like Pat Burrell and Ryan Braun in years past, was MVP of Miami’s Fall World Series but couldn’t crack either All-America team. Virginia’s Kyle Teel, a polished catcher who had success against tough Northwoods League arms last summer, is also nowhere to be found. And OF Mario Zabala from FIU, arguably the most tooled up player in the class, was omitted from the list.)
In addition to the high talent level this incoming freshman class boasts, the other characteristic that distinguishes it from past rookie classes is its (relative) old age. Of the 28 players on both teams, a staggering eight players will be draft eligible next year. Of course, this is partially attributable to MLB moving the draft from the first week in June to mid-July, thereby making players born as late as the end of August/early September 2001 eligible for the 2022 draft. (Sophomores who turn 21 within six weeks after the draft may be selected in that year’s draft.) Still, given that the 2022 college draft crop was already considered exceptionally strong, the influx of at least eight additional studs will only add to the fun.
Kevin Parada (2022 draft eligible), RHH, Georgia Tech—After graduating Jason Varitek, Matt Wieters, and Joey Bart, Georgia Tech has established itself as the premier finishing school for catchers. Parada, a California native, has a well-developed bat to go along with outstanding receiving skills.
Caden Grice, LHH, Clemson—A mountain of a man at 6-06/225, Grice’s game features immense power, and he impressed observers this fall with moonshot after moonshot. This spring, Grice should also see time on the mound, where he sits in the low 90’s with his fastball and has good command of his breaking ball.
Colby Halter (2022 draft eligible), LHH, Florida—Halter has been on scouts’ radar for several years and for good reason—he has a beautiful left-handed swing that smacks line drives from foul pole to foul pole. Although he has mostly played on the left side of the infield, he will see time at 2B for Florida this spring.
Yohandy Morales, RHH, Miami (FL)—Though Rosario and Mederos have gotten most of the headlines from this Miami class, Morales should have a huge impact in Coral Gables. Despite his physicality (6-04/195), Morales is nimble in the field and packs a punch in the batter’s box. He’s slated to begin the year as Miami’s starting SS.
Oklahoma SS Cade Horton would have been in this slot but was diagnosed with a torn elbow ligament in early February that will sideline him for the entire 2021 season.
Cayden Wallace (2022 draft eligible), RHH, Arkansas—Wallace will likely start 2021 in RF in deference to defensive stalwart Jacob Nesbit, but his power bat and cannon arm give him the ideal 3B profile. Wallace is another guy who had a monster fall.
Slade Wilks (2022 draft eligible), LHH, Southern Miss—Wilks has ridiculous power, which he showed off this fall. If he can fine tune his plate discipline and approach against breaking stuff away, he’ll be a Day 1 pick next year.
Chase Davis, LHH, Arizona—With a Wildcats’ OF packed with experienced veterans, Davis may have to wait his turn before his high-octane bat and rifle arm are on full display.
Dylan Crews, RHH, LSU—Crews was universally regarded as the highest ranked high schooler to matriculate this autumn. A compact 6-00/190, Crew’s strong wrists generate Clint Frazier-type bat speed and give him over-the-fence power in any ballpark. He’s also an above average defender with a strong arm.
Cole Foster, SH, Auburn—Foster, an ultra-polished switch-hitting SS, is expected to see most of his playing time at 2B this spring due to the presence of Ryan Bliss. He should be the Tigers’ full-time SS next year.
Carson Montgomery, RHP, FSU—Montgomery was the highest rated high school pitcher to go undrafted in 2020. He showed up to Tallahassee throwing cheese that scraped the high 90’s with improved command. It’s only a matter of time before he’s the Seminoles’ ace.
Tanner Witt, RHP, Texas—Witt, whose father Kevin played parts of five seasons in the big leagues, was better known as a slugging 3B during his first three years of high school; however, his stock soared as a hurler his senior year and he had multiple teams willing to give him a seven-figure signing bonus. Witt’s heater can touch the mid-90’s and the spin rate on his curveball approaches the 3000 RPM mark. He could vie for the Longhorns’ Sunday starter role.
Alejandro Rosario, RHP, Miami (FL)—Barely 6-00/170, Rosario isn’t an imposing presence on the mound, yet he throws mid-90’s gas with an equally vicious slider. After the Hurricanes’ entire weekend rotation graduated to the pros, it would be a surprise if Rosario doesn’t get a weekend assignment.
Victor Mederos (2022 draft eligible), RHP, Miami (FL)—Unlike his teammate Rosario, Mederos, at 6-03/215, easily fits the description of mound enforcer and he has the power arsenal to match. Mederos’ best pitch is an electric fastball that routinely touches 96 MPH, but his other three offerings all grade out as at least average.
Ryan Hagenow, RHP, Kentucky—Hagenow is a highly projectable right-hander with plenty of room to fill out his 6-05/200 frame. His change-up is uncommonly effective for such a young pitcher, and he has uncanny command of a lethal slider.